The Early Photography Years ...

Posted by Jaime Dormer on

My memories as a kid was that a camera was something that only few people had and could afford, normally there would be one in the family, I remember using a box brownie, but we were always amazed and keen to see photos.  Most of the photos we saw were of people we knew at functions or when they were on holidays within Australia, I do not recall seeing any from overseas.

Photos when developed the good ones went into an album and the balance remained in the packet and put away into a shoebox that was often forgot about or lost.

My parents were close to the Macelveen family whose children had since grown up and long left the family property, but the father Alan, was a very keen photographer, He was one of the only people that I knew that had a movie camera, no sound of course but it was in colour, he spent many hours filming us and others growing up, school carnivals etc, a comprehensive archive sadly lost over the years but I can remember vividly watching the movies that he had taken, as it was a special event for me because not only was I in them, but it was something we enjoyed doing as television was yet to come into my life at that stage.

As the years rolled by I never really had any interest in photography at all, until after I had left school at which point I became interested in movies rather than photos, as in my opinion at the time movies represented the real life of someone doing something real which I thought was what it was all about, photography had nothing else of value to me.

My first movie camera was a “Super 8”, I cannot recall the make, but I would buy a small reel of film that would allow me to take three minutes, and then I would have to load a new film to continue, once taken you would carefully put it away, send it to the developer and wait several weeks to get it back, then when received back, it would be viewed with great anticipation on a projector, occasionally the film would jam and the projector would burn the film, so I had to learn how to repair join/splice the film, not very hard but at the time I felt that I was very clever being able to do it.

After some years the video machine became available, I was the second person that I was aware of that owned such a machine, I remember that it was a big decision wether to go for the “Beta” or “VHS” format, whilst any one that new anything about video at that time all recommended the “Beta” format, but against the information I bought a “VHS” format machine, my only reason was that the tape was bigger so therefore the quality should be better, not sure why I thought that but that was my original reason, the price was about the same.

It was a JVC video recorder & player, it came with a camera that connected with a 10pin cord to a recorder and weighted about 6-7kg, fully portable, the player on the other hand was of simular size & weight with a remote that was connected by cable.

I used the video camera to record many football matches and replayed them on the player, we used this to show the players including myself on how we played and how the opposition played, not sure that it did any good, but we all enjoyed watching each other playing football.

As time moved on, so did technology, the size of the cameras reduced and the quality improved remarkably, on a trip to Thailand for my brother in laws wedding, I purchased my first Sony Handycam Vidoe 8, it took a small video cartridge that recorded for about 90mins, the quality was good, and I soon mastered it recording hour after hour of holidays, family events etc.

It was at this point in time that I decided to purchase my first true SLR camera, it was a Pentax with a couple of lenses, can’t exactly recall what focal length they were but it would have been what was provided with the kit when I bought it.  I took many photos, not really knowing what all the numbers and settings meant, I was just happy with the auto settings.

The problem with the film SLR was just that, you had to buy the film, you could only shoot up to 12, 24 or 36 shots then you would have to change the film, and look after it post taking it out of the camera without further exposing it, I remember having the occasional film getting stuck or something going wrong when taking it out and you would end up having a length of film exposed to the light and loosing your shots, some other issues were that I would leave the used film in the car, bag or elsewhere and forget to get it processed, or I just could not afford to get them developed, so they would lay around the house in a draw for several months, and sometimes longer.

Then digital cameras came out, I thought this is great, I can shoot as much as I like for free, I had several different digital cameras, including a Kodak 4 megapixel which was a great all round camera, don’t think that it ever let me down.

After years of use I started to gain a fairly solid interest in digital photography, I was in Melbourne at the time visiting some friends and had the opportunity to go to the Amberly Airshow, so it was then I decided that I wanted to get a better digital camera, I went to many different camera stores in Melbourne and finally ended up at Michaels Camera Store, I remember at the time it was an amazing store, several floors, just full of everything related to cameras, from used to new, a museum, classrooms and more, a photographers paradise, I spent many hours making up my mind, originally I was planning to purchase a Canon, however I was told that my old Pentax lenses would fit onto the camera I was looking at which was a just released Samsung GX10, 10 megapixel camera, anyway I ended up buying the Samsung and I also purchased a Sigma 17-55mm, 170-500mm lenses & a 1.4x tele-converter, which I was told at the time with the crop factor of the camera taken into account would double the focal length of the lens to a whopping 1000mm, so I instantly saw visions of me taking amazing photos that few others would be able to get, this of course whilst true, still relies on ability of the photographer & the moment, not just the equipment.

Of course these extra bell & whistles come at a price, and I don’t just mean dollars & cents, because as soon as you start adding tele-converters to your gear you rapidly reduce the amount of light that the camera receives, so to offset this reduction in light, the camera slows the shutter speed down or increases the ISO, not necessarily what your want went taking shots of high speed jets flying overhead, anyway all these things have there place and it is just a matter of learning about and how/when to use them.

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